Diva stood at the entrance of the studio and watched his two friends like a proud mother watches her high achieving kids and pride swelled his chest.
They were doing what they did best–dancing. And when they danced they were in their element. Two gorgeous individuals in perfect synth—a condition so infectious it spilled over to the rest of the artists and made them give their very best.
The dance was a slow lyrical number; a song about the triumph of love with plenty of lifts and intimate moves giving Shaan ample opportunity to romance Khanak and he made the best of it repeating certain steps over and over in the pretense of correcting other dancers’ mistakes, in the process making Khanak go red with embarrassment.
“I think everybody’s got it Shaan. We should let them work on their own now.” Khanak said breaking away when she found him on the verge of kissing her which was certainly not part of the routine. He let go of her reluctantly and though he tried hard, couldn’t cover his frustration.
That is exactly what happens when you bottle up your feelings, bachaa! Diva thought with a smirk. He sashayed up to the pair, “C’mon little ones….lets go home.”
“Home? Whatever for?” Shan had to work hard to control his scowl. He was in no mood to listen to anybody at the moment, particularly Diva with his far fetched ideas.
His friend’s false eyelashes went aflutter as he pouted, “For a photo shoot. An intimate portrait of two lovers which I feel should be documented for posterity… to inspire future generations.” He sighed. “Just like Shakespeare did with Romeo and Juliet even though they were fictional characters. But both of you are very much for real and the world needs to know don’t you think?” His sly wink enveloped both of them.
Khanak flopped over on her stomach and buried her head in a large fluffy pillow. She was trying hard to hold on to her dream. Or was it real. It was hard to tell. The scene was a grand ball, where she was the only one dancing with the handsome prince because he wouldn’t dance with anyone else. He was holding her tight as if he feared she would vanish at any moment. Then his fudge brown eyes peered deep into her own as he asked for her hand and her heart stopped beating and…
“Wake up sleepy head!”
She stirred and groaned in complaint as the bright rays of sun struck her eyes. Her head throbbed as someone shook her arm.
“Where am I?”
“Perfecto! Just the question I would expect from a beautiful princess. C’mon wake up or was the witch’s spell stronger than the power of your love?”
Khanak sat up straight. The sudden movement made the room spin and sent a wave of nausea through her chest. She stared blankly at the purple haired man sitting in front of her grinning from ear to ear.
“There goes our romantic dinner. I mean…,” Shan laughed, “Sorry I sort of got carried away. It’s Dibubhai fault. He’s taking this thing way too seriously.” He said shaking his head while looking at a note pinned to a dartboard that hung on the wall.
Khanak was perplexed. She had been relegated to such a state ever since earlier in the day when her boss’ housekeeper had addressed her as ‘bahu’ or daughter-in-law. Matters appeared to have gotten even more complex and indiscernible with Dibubhai and Shaan’s mysterious discussions and now this.
The look on her face almost made Shan laugh out loud. But he controlled himself. It would be disastrous to give himself away especially when Dibu had come up with such a brainwave. Dibu you are a genius! He thought then cleared his throat, “Dibu in all his wisdom has given us an advice…”
“Yes advice,” he nodded with as much seriousness as he garner. “According to him if we want our farce to be ironclad we both need plenty of practice. He would be terribly put down if he’d have to serve madam Tash;” Shan said and frowned. He couldn’t imagine such a scenario. Then he looked at Khanak. No. He couldn’t let that happen at any cost. He would likely perish if he didn’t have her permanently at his side and in his life. “I think he has a point there for sure,” he murmured.
They were seated on Shan’s bike and Khanak as usual was keeping at least a foot’s distance.
“Why? I don’t see anyone…” she said taking a quick glance around.
“Darling… I mean Khanak,” Shan said quickly correcting himself. “You never know. There could be people hiding anywhere, behind trees, bushes, pillars etc. Last night made us famous. I’m sure all of them will be out in force to get some more meat. The story isn’t dead yet.” Shan was relieved when she relented to his request but with just one arm. He quickly fixed the situation much to her chagrin and was pleased when she didn’t release herself. He then said; “May I ask what persuaded you agree to this campaign?”
“Someone who helped set my priorities straight;” she replied with a smile. It was her turn to be secretive.
Yet she had no clue why their forty-minute ride turned out to be so bumpy.
Shantanu extended his hand to Khanak, “Now for the big test.”
She nodded. Yes, they were about to take their show on the road. All eyes would be on them and there would be no room for slip ups. Absolutely none.
They walked inside arm in arm and at once were aware of quite a few raised eyebrows and surreptitious whispers. Yet no one dared question them. Who would of the Boss?
A thrill ran up her arm. Khanak reflexively pulled at her hand but Shaan wouldn’t let go. Rather he held on even tighter.
“C’mon Shan…not in front of strangers!”
“Sweetheart, Tarun isn’t any man of the street. He’s one of our own, aren’t you Tarun?”
“What is all this? What are you hiding from me?” Tarun stared at them with a perplexed look on his face.
“Oh you don’t know? Were you missing from last night’s party? But of course! You were out on one your usual skirt chasing jaunts. Time to settle down Tarun!” Shan said grinning broadly.
Tarun went red in the face, “Keep out of my affairs Shan. Just tell me what’s going on!”
Shaan exchanged a glance with Khanak; “Alright then Tarun, I present to you my fiancé,”
“You didn’t get it? She is my mangetar, my hone waali, my partner for life. Gosh! Am I lucky or what!” Shaan iterated as he wrapped his arm around Khanak’s waist and tried to force her on to his lap while she blushingly resisted.
Tarun gawked at them; “How? When?”
“It’s been a while… when Khanak and I went to Chennai for her cousin’s wedding. I was waiting for the perfect moment and it presented itself during the reception party in the presence of her whole family.” Shan looked at Khanak and she nodded her approval, “We wanted to keep it a secret and announce it later but last night my hand was forced. You can ask Tash, she was there and was shocked too just like you.”
“Yes,” Khanak said; “poor thing, she even asked to see my ring. I felt so bad for her.” She placed a hand on her heart and managed to look genuinely sympathetic.
“Could you… consider pretending,” Shaan paused; “that we are… deeply in love with each other?” He said and waited for her reaction. Please don’t say no.
“Pretend?” Khanak’s beautiful eyes grew wide.
“Uh…huh…I mean put on an act for the benefit of the world in general and one person in particular—Tash. ‘Cause I want to hit her where it hurts the most. I want to crush her pride, make her blind with jealousy. So much that she digs her own grave and falls victim to her own machinations.
And do so in such a manner that there is no hope for recovery. She deserves no sympathy;” he said looking grim and determined.
But his eyes were tender when they turned to Khanak; “This way she will surmise nothing and when she does… it’ll be too late.”
“But why play a game? Why don’t you simply tell it to her face?” Khanak asked.
He sighed; “I could but she wouldn’t believe me. She has assumed such a thick cloak of self-glorification and prejudice that criticism or rejection of any kind will glide off like water from a duck’s back.
No that wouldn’t work,” he pursed his lips. “That armor has to be riddled with so many holes that she drowns in her own putrid cesspool of despair. And I think it can be done because she too possesses a vice that has spelt the downfall of many…”
His mouth twisted into a cynical smirk; “For some reason she possesses this false notion that she is irresistible. That she is god’s gift to man. She believes I’m crazy about her and that I’m just playing hard to get which makes her even more tenacious. What she doesn’t get is that men look for other things in a potential mate… like inner beauty for instance.” He looked keenly into Khanak’s eyes making her blush again.
Shaan stared riveted. He was enchanted by her virgin allure. He fought a compelling urge to take her in his arms and reassure her of his undying devotion.
It is agonizing but I can’t rush it now, he thought. That moment has come and gone. Her trust in me has faltered and in order to win it again I have to give her space and give her time.
Khanak’s breath caught in her throat and her heart sank to the pit of her stomach. She had been so lost in her thoughts that she’d failed to notice the car.
Dreading the worst, she chanced a peak out of the corner of her eyes and saw them; three men in a dark red convertible that was hugging the sidewalk and trailing just behind her.
It was her worst nightmare.
Lifting her head, her posture belying a confidence she lacked, Khanak fought an irresistible urge to flee and resolutely continued to trot on.
But The SOBs were tenacious young hounds, disinhibited and emboldened by a liquor.
The vehicle drew in front blocking her progress as she made to cross the street.
She could now clearly see their faces—young slackers who free loaded off their rich dads and whose souls were sold to a life time of sin.
Within moments she was surrounded. They circled around her like hyenas; their blood shot lascivious eyes gloating over her as if she was a piece of meat on the butcher’s block.
She took a step backwards as her skin crawled with revulsion. Her hand instinctively reached for her stole before she realized she had none.
An oily faced juvenile delinquent; his hand still clinging on to an empty bottle, shot up from depths of the back seat of the car and mumbled; his words an indistinguishable slurry.
“Itni raat gaye, jaaneman…road par.. akele..ek.. khoob surat ladki?” (So late in the night sweetheart, a lone girl alone on the street….)
“Kyun? Nahin chal sakti? Tere baap ka naam likha hai kya?” (Why can’t I walk? Does your father own this road?) She shot back taking cover behind a facade of aggression.
The rogues were taken aback but only momentarily. They roared with glee and inched closer; “Chikni toh teekhi churi nikli yaar…phir toh aur bhi mazei hain…” (Pretty girl is also sharp like a knife. Thereby she will be more fun.)
She eyed them warily, her mind fighting the numbness brought on by fear. She gripped her purse tighter as her palms turned began to perspire.
One of them decided to take the initiative and made a grab for her.
“Aage mat aana nahin toh goli maar doongi!” (Don’t come forward or else I will shoot!) she screamed.
“She’s kidding yaar!” they laughed but stopped in their tracks; their attention riveted as she made a show of slipping her hand inside her purse. She was desperate.
Tash’s voice resounded loud and harsh in the sudden hush that descended on the club. Loud enough to rudely jar the deeply engrossed couple out of their reverie.
This was not acceptable to Diva who followed his arch enemy onto the stage.“Tash leave them alone’” he exclaimed. “You are stretching your limits.”
“Yes you are.’” Shan declared irritably not pleased at the interruption especially when he felt the time was ripe to declare his feelings to Khanak who seemed at her most pliant and thawed out state.
But the object of his affections looked shaken and she was staring at his nemesis, her eyes wide with alarm. This caused him further aggravation and he instinctively drew her closer.
“What is this crap are you talking about?” He asked Tash with a sardonic grin; “…the dance?” Then he looked around in an effort to the entire throng of fans; “What say y’ all? Was the dance crap?”
“Nooooooo!” Everyone roared in unison.
“It was heavenly!”
“Maar daala (you killed us) Shan!”
Then someone called out; “Dude! The only thing missing was the kiss!”
“Yeeesssss! … Kiss her now…Right now!” A chant started.
Khanak’s cheeks were set aflame when Shan chuckled softly and hugged her tighter. She was thankful he didn’t comply to the crowd’s request.
“Shut up you guys! That is not what I’m talking about!” Tash wailed. She was almost foaming at the mouth as she witnessed the blatant display of affection.
“The ring Tash…her ring!” Trish’s voice urged.
“Show me your hand!” Tash demanded of Khanak and when she wavered she yanked it forcibly.
There was no question that the lovely ring mounted with the exquisite butterfly arrested in mid-flight was made of real diamonds just as Trish told her.
Khanak tried to retract her hand but Tash’s grip was firm.“This doesn’t look like a cheap trinket by any long shot. Who gave it to you?”
“I did.” Shan said.
“What?” Tash stared at him.
“Yes, you heard right Tash.” Shan asserted firmly while smiling reassuringly at Khanak. “I slipped it on her finger a few days ago when I felt the moment was right and this lovely girl was sweet enough to accept my proposal. We are engaged to be married.”
“I don’t believe it! It’s…it’s ridiculous!” Tash screamed, her face growing white as a sheet.
“You’d better cause it’s the truth;” Shan retorted viciously feeling no sympathy for the woman who at one time he had considered a close friend.
But Tash wasn’t one to be easily dissuaded. She had an agenda and this was the perfect platform.
“Then what is this?” She lifted up her left hand displaying a plain silver band. It was not as lavish or ornate as the one on Khanak’s finger but a ring nevertheless.
“What about it?” Shan continued to stick to his guns.
“Have you forgotten already?” Tash sashayed forward with a coy smile, “Then let me titillate your memory. This, is the same ring you slipped on my finger a couple of months ago. Can you deny it? If so I have plenty of witnesses.”
Shan grew wary as he saw a skeptical gleam in Khanak’s eyes. He was aware that he was treading on dangerous ground but he couldn’t deny the truth; “Yes I did but…”
“There you go!” Tash laughed in triumph looking at the audience who were lapping up everything hungrily. “Now…how can a guy be engaged to two girls at the same time? Not only is that illegal but it’s freaking preposterous!”
“What’s going on?” Khanak exclaimed wrenching herself from Shan’s embrace as he addressed her rival. “Tash…You know very well that was nothing but a joke!”
“A joke? Of course not.” Tash then turned and snarled at Khanak. “This is a joke!” She threw her arms around a startled Shan. “Darling! I know how you love taking people for a ride but this is very cruel! You shouldn’t have fooled a poor innocent girl just to make me green with envy and only because I was away from you for some time. Promise me you won’t do it again.”
“This is utter nonsense! You are making it all up! Khanak I can explain!” Shan blurted out looking anxiously at Khanak while trying at the same time to disengage himself from Tash. But she wasn’t letting him go.
Khanak slunk away staring at both of them in shocked disbelief.
“It’s the truth darling,” Tash’s words mocked her stupidity. “How can Shan desire to be with a simpleton like you when he can have someone like me? Nothing could be more absurd!”
“Khanak please …Stop! Don’t listen to her! She’s lying!” Shan hollered reaching for her.
Khanak spun on her heels and bolted. The place had suddenly turned in to a suffocating dungeon. She could hardly breathe. She had to get out.
Pushing blindly through the crowd that had shifted their collective attention on to her—an object of amusement and ridicule. They were murmuring about her and laughing. It was unbearable.
“Khanak!” Someone called out.
She continued toward the big red exit sign. That was her only goal, her escape.
She stumbled in the dark and fell. Her knees stung. But the hurt inside was stronger. She couldn’t yield. Not yet.
She had to put the widest distance possible between herself and those who considered her easy prey.
Finally she surfaced. The air cleared but barely. Her chest still felt constricted.
She glanced around but couldn’t tell where she was. As if it mattered anymore. She laughed. She was all alone again, a homeless orphan.
She took a left defying instinct, nothing could be relied upon any more. She tried to pretend to be invisible but it was impossible—her attire, her gender made her shine like a beacon.
She saw men gawking at her like hungry wolves. She cringed with fear.
But she couldn’t stop.. She needed to keep moving or they’d catch and maul her…if not them then someone else would, the ones she was running from … they’d trap her again in their cleverly spun web of deceit.
Scenes replayed in her head as she hurried along at a brisk pace toward an unknown destination, intuitively dodging her way around on the sparsely populated streets.
Tarun’s uncouth assumptions, his cheap and vulgar insinuations. Her new acquaintances… with their smiling faces and friendly chatter…their huddled whispering in the corridors.
Someone deliberately bumped into her and grabbed at her behind. Swearing aloud she hit out fiercely at her attacker and connected.
She got a glimpse of her attacker’s stunned rough features before he turned about face and walked away.
Trish’s conflicting and confusing words. Tash’s loud derisive laughter…the loathing in her eyes. Diva’s aghast face…
Life for them is a big farce, a grand charade. They are on the stage all the time, playing a part, their true faces hidden behind masks. She had become a part of them–the unwitting player who had been asked to play herself. The accidental tourist.
And Shan…It was agony to even think of his name.
But she couldn’t erase his face from her mind. The harder she tried the brighter it got. The beautiful man she had fallen in love with. The wonderful soul who had urged her to dream big…helped her believe in herself.
Those warm brown eyes in which she’d dared envision a glimmer of affection, of hope…
She came to an abrupt stop. It had started to drizzle. She began to shudder uncontrollably. Tears finally flowed unchecked. I’ve never felt this alone before!
She was standing in what looked very much like a spotlight and felt forced to look up.
The hoarding was brand new. It’s lettering obliterated by her tears and the rain. But what caught her attention was the partially shrouded face of the dancer. She could barely recognize herself.
Dil toh pagal hai, Dil deewana hai…sigh, thought Diva as he watched Shan follow Khanak’s progress back toward the Green Room. Go after her! What are you waiting for? Knock her senseless with a burning red hot smacker!
But Shan didn’t take his unspoken advice instead gave his head a strong jerk as if trying valiantly to uproot himself out of a trance. Poor darling…I feel for you babes! Diva empathized.
“Diva…” Shan looked at him, “it appears that Khanak has spun her magic on the Japanese.”
Just like she has on you! Diva smiled.
Shan looked at him suspiciously before continuing in a brusque clip; “They are so impressed that they want to book her for a couple of shows. In fact they are anxious to talk about it right now.” His tone then softened, “She’ll be so pleased.”
His face then broke out into a huge grin; “I will tell her later. Surprise her with it! Yes!”
Diva nodded enthusiastically, “Yes darling! Do that! She’ll love to hear it from you.”
“Cool! I will later tonight. That girl deserves the best. She has worked so hard.”
And she has you on her side! Diva thought dabbing his eyes with a tissue.
“I will see you later then at the party,” Shan said turning to walk away.
“What? You aren’t taking her with you?” Diva asked.
“No. I need to meet with these guys first and remember it’s a surprise!” Shan smiled. Then mid stride he paused back and pointed a warning finger at his friend; “You better bring her Diva! Or I don’t know what I’ll do!”
“Pretender!” Diva called out once he felt Shan was safely out of ear shot. “He thinks I’m his messenger boy. As if I can’t see the way his heart does balle balle when he is with her. Why can’t he just confide and be done with it?! And there that poor girl in such a state!”
His pristine hands fluttered like a couple of winged creatures in the air as he hurried to do Shan’s bidding; “Love is a weird thing. It turns smart sensible men into bumbling donkeys! But mein kya karoon?! I love them both so much! My babies!”
Diva knocked on Khanak’s green room door before he breezed in. But then he drew to an abrupt halt, his blue eyes opening as wide as saucers.
The girl in question was sitting in a chair staring despondently at the mirror.
“Khanak my jaan! Meri Shan ke heart ki armaan!” he exclaimed. “What happened? Why aren’t you ready yet?”
“C’mon quick! Get up! Do you want him to kill me? Hailaaa! Though I wouldn’t mind having those big sexy hands on my neck. But they’d look so much better elsewhere.” He then looked at Khanak. “Don’t you get me?” Then as she shook her head in the negative, he let out his breath; “Good! Because it’s censored! Girls should preserve their innocence till their wedding night samjhi?”
Khanak blushed furiously.
“And what are you wearing?” He said staring at her salwar suit; “Girl! This is a dance club, not your local mahila mandal.”
He quickly sifted through the dresses on the rack. “Yes this will be perfect. Wear it.” His eyes were shining. “Shan teri toh vaat lag gayi! (Shan it’s your funeral.)”
“I am not going.” She said. “Can you take me home?”
Then when he raised his exquisitely arched eyebrows, she tried to explain with her hands clasped tightly on her lap; “I…I’m not really a party person and I don’t know anybody there…”
Diva affected a loud cackle…; “As if anybody does. To tell you the truth half of the invitees hate the other half’s guts! But everything is obliterated for the cameras. They’ll kiss, make up and embrace each other. They will show off their latest acquisitions, their Lamborghini’s and Louis Vuitton’s and their sparklers just so they can make it on tomorrow’s Page 3.”
But he succeeded in making Khanak even more anxious; “I definitely don’t see myself hobnobbing with such a crowd.”
“My dear girl, the choice is out of your hands now! You are part of that crowd! By doing what you did on stage today, you have taken your first step into show biz! Everybody is sitting up and talking about you. They want to know more such as where you came from; what were your beginnings; how you met Shan; everything. Besides you are Jhankaar’s new face!”
The hand he placed on her head was almost paternal, “It’s a tough deal yes, but fame is not an easy game. You are forced to wear a lot of faces and do things you’d hate to do otherwise. Because talent is not everything here. Its visibility…being the media darling will make or break you! And you do want to be famous don’t you?”
“Yes I do… but…”
He smiled. There was a shrewd glint in his eyes. “You’re worried you’ll be pitched against that Tash and you are afraid you’ll lose. Yes she is a force to reckon with, a seasoned player. But you can’t wish her away. She won’t vanish into thin air if you don’t face her tonight. Rather it’ll reinforce he to use all her deceit to get you out of the way…and you can’t let her do that! You have to buck up and face her!”
“My dear Khanak…,” he sighed standing her up and held her arms. “You are beautiful. Your talent is so fresh that you shine like a beacon. People are already falling under your spell. You have nothing to fear. In fact Tash is the one who feels threatened because she can see you usurping her place in Shan’s life…even though she is really living in a delusion. You have to show her you are here to stay. Besides Shan needs you by his side… and I know you want to be with him…”
CRAZY HEARTS NIGHT CLUB, Bandra:
A place where insane hearts find each other and have a wonderfully awesome time
The club was rocking to the latest in dance music. Every night it was a different theme. Tonight was devoted to the engaging rhythms of hip hop and jazz to which grooved a rambunctious crowd of the young and restless from the upper echelons of Mumbai. All having drifted in to let their hair down and dance until the wee hours of the morning.
Tash had just completed a sizzling routine, dressed in shimmering white a la Kylie Minogue. But she didn’t look very thrilled.
“You were brilliant Tash! …Ooooohhhh all those sexy moves! Were they choreographed with Shan in mind? And btw your ankle, it looks as right as rain!” Trish said.
“Yes in a way… but I’m not so sure now. He looked sort of annoyed,” Natasha said doubtfully. She seemed to have grown a permanent frown.
“Of course, I’m pretty sure he took notice even though he was watching the door most of the time…” Trish gushed with a flutter of her false eyelashes and a wide smile on her vampire red lips though inside she wasn’t feeling very sympathetic–You stuck up bitch! Your days are over! Shan could care a hoot! …hope you break your back this time and get permanently laid up!
“You think so?” Natasha turned to her.
“Yes, I know so. But you know Tarun is game anytime, maybe you should get connected…”
“Tarun? Never! Your brother is a big time loser!” Natasha’s eyes flashed.
“Yeah I know.” Trish nodded agreeing wholeheartedly; that’s why I think you are both made for each other!
“Wonder where Shan has disappeared…”
All of a sudden there was a commotion near the entrance. Someone had arrived. People stopped dancing and looked up. It was a new face and a popular one– always a worthy distraction.
Trish grabbing a Bloody Mary from the bar and joined the crowd while hollering at Tash; “C’mon! Let’s check them out. Must be some money bags…”
“OMGEEEE! Who do we have here? Mousey Ms. Sweetie Pie herself!” Trish exclaimed, her mouth agape when she saw Khanak.
Khanak looked stunning in an elegant raspberry red flowing cocktail dress with spaghetti halter straps and a gold and silver broad sequined belt, the skirt just stopping short of her pretty knees. Her hair was set in wavy curls and caught up in a red, gold and silver bow and her feet were clad in strappy red and gold sandals. With minimal makeup and a dazzling smile she looked as fresh and alluring as a new born daisy.
Light bulbs flashed in a frenzy as people elbowed each other out of the way to get near her. Autographs were requested and signed while a couple of paparazzi hounded her and thrust their mikes in her face.
Diva meanwhile butted in. “Leave way! Ms. Khanak is here to have fun. Direct all interview requests to me, I am her secretary.” He said clearing the way for Khanak.
Then he spied Trish and Tash and gravitated towards them dragging a confused Khanak with him. “Here’s your honored guest Ms. Natasha. What happened darling? Did you bite into a particularly sour lemon?”
Trish forced her mouth closed and looked at Natasha who was glowering at Diva who said;“Haaye if looks could kill! Tash, you should consider the horror movie genre…the directors would save plenty on makeup.”
Khanak tried to shroud her snigger behind her hand when something bright caught Trish’s sharp eyes.
“Nothing.” Khanak said snatching her hand away.
“No. It’s a ring! Tash…look!”
When all of a sudden;
The entire club was plunged into darkness except a sole beam that spotlighted Khanak.
The sun goes down, The stars come out
And all that counts, Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came
Then as the foot tapping music sprung up, several cross beamed lasers in a multitude of colors lit up the small stage where stood a lone tall flamboyant figure with his legs splayed wide, his head turned to one side and his hand holding a black glittering fedora cocked jauntily over his forehead. He was dressed in a white checkered plaid shirt, sequin red tie and baggy khaki cargos.
Khanak’s heart jumped into her throat and she grew lightheaded when she recognized the smile on the handsome profile.
The crowd screamed as one when the dancer smartly snapped his feet together and began to sing with his outstretched arm pointed directly at Khanak.
Khanak felt irresistibly drawn to the strikingly gorgeous man who also seemed to have eyes only for her. Everything else faded into the background.
You cast a spell on me, spell on me
You hit me like the sky fell on me, fell on me
And I decided you look well on me, well on me
So let’s go somewhere no one else can see, you and me
He sprung off the stage. The crowd shifted en masse and gave way as his long legs covered the distance to Khanak in a few effortless strides. He vaulted over the railing that cordoned off the small enclosure where she stood and grabbing hold of her waist lifted her back to the floor, all the while gazing intently into her eyes and ignoring everyone else.
Turn the lights out now
Now I’ll take you by the hand
Hand you another drink, Drink it if you can
Can you spend a little time, Time is slipping away,
Away from us so stay, Stay with me I can make,
Make you glad you came
She followed him in a trance as he led her to the dance floor and stood there in the middle hypnotized while he danced around her in light fluid movements… limbs loose and dexterous…living the music…interpreting every word and making it his own.
His moves almost made him appear to float. His feet glided on the floor as he did complex acrobatic moves that were mesmerizing to watch but hard to breakdown. It seemed like he was wooing her, making tantalizing advances and trying to win her over. He was without a doubt succeeding hands down.
The sun goes down, The stars come out
And all that counts, Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came
Then switching pace he jerked her close making the crowd gasp with anticipation. She did not resist when he made her stretch both her arms above her head as his hands skimmed over her torso then hoisted her up in a single smooth movement. She scissored her long legs around his waist and arched her back while he hugged her body and rested his forehead on her chest.
A loud applause peppered with whistles and catcalls erupted around the attractive couple who seemed lost in a world of their own.
“Glad you came Khanak;” he whispered huskily in her ear then lifted her hand and kissed it. She lowered her gaze in shy distress.
“Atta boy Shan! Way to go!” Diva yelled his approval.
“What’s the hell is going on here?!”
PS: Sorry about the delay but I’ve been busy with several things including the promotions of my new book MILAN. Yes it’s out! And you can get ithere!
“You took my heart and this time I’m not sure if I want it back…”
The words had emerged spontaneously as if from somewhere deep inside. Shan hadn’t planned anything. It was as if his soul had blurted out what he’d felt all along but didn’t have the courage to accept and now that it was out in the open, he couldn’t turn his back on it because it was the truth. Plain and simple.
But how would Khanak react? Would she believe him? After all he had tried so hard to show her he wasn’t really involved.
He waited with baited breath and a lump in his throat.
She stood silently in front of him with her head bent. Her shiny hair expertly coiffed lay fashionably askew (Diva’s a genius!) and it so enhanced the elegant lines of her lovely neck that his hand raised instinctively to trace them with his fingertips.
She looked up suddenly startling him. Her color deepened contrasting beautifully with the pale pink of her dress. Their eyes met and for the briefest moment he thought he saw a glimmer of understanding in those deep pools of ebony.
They appeared to be searching, probing as if looking for something. What? Sincerity? He’d have given anything at the moment for the ability to read her mind.
Khanak looked away feeling flustered. A strange heat was spreading through her body. There was something in those brown eyes she hadn’t encountered before nor had she dared to.
“Yes?” she turned her face eagerly toward him.
But he didn’t speak instead kept looking silently at her.
The impasse was thankfully broken by a loud knock on the door.
“Hey Shan! Are you there laat sahib?”
Shan opened the door, “Rohan you?”
The chubby twin leered on spying Khanak in the background and laughed, “Just what I suspected! Bacchu…When will you lose your bad habits?”
“Rohan. Watch your dirty little trap.” Shan felt himself growing livid over something that wouldn’t have concerned him a tad bit in the past.
“Hold on my boy! I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?” Rohan said without taking his eyes off Khanak who seemed to be looking for a place to hide.
“Rohan…! Stay within your limits,” Shan said tersely while trying hard not to lose his cool.
The designer was taken aback, “Hey calm down. I didn’t mean anything…nothing at all. I apologize if you felt otherwise,” he nodded at Khanak. “I just came to ask you both to accompany me to the stage.”
“Be sure to watch it in the future or else you can wish away your VIP passes to Jhankaar’s opening night,” Shan said offering Khanak his arm.
That was enough to frighten Rohan into behaving and genuflecting in front of Khanak as if she was the Queen of England.
“How can he?”
“How can who Tash?”
“How can Shan?! Look at him! Look at the way he’s flaunting that bimbo on his arm!”
Tarun turned to give his full attention to Natasha who looked like she had bitten into a particularly smoking chili pepper; one of the ‘Habanero’ variety. Her face bright red, ears steaming, her whole body consumed with a jealous rage as she glowered at the very handsome couple striding arm in arm down the catwalk.
He smiled, “You mean Ms. Khanak Mishra right?”
“Whatever her name is, I don’t care! He cannot dare to pay attention to another woman in my presence!”
Tarun wasn’t in the mood for sympathy, “Well Tash…she is his lead dancer and very lovely too I might add.”
“What? What did you just say Tarun?”
“He said exactly what he meant to Tash darling!” Diva breezed by with a bright smile and placed a sisterly palm on her arm. “For once he has spoken the truth. I guess that’s the magic of true beauty…” he sighed. “By the way did you like my artist act? You think I can be a future matinee idol?” He arched his head and appeared to rearrange an invisible strand of hair.
She flicked his hand away, a vicious light into her eyes, “Yes but only as a confused fag…and I can assure you you’ll find plenty of people to laugh at your sob story, me included.”
Diva remained unruffled…”at least I’ll have an audience but my darling you…” he flicked her chin up with a graceful forefinger, “… can kiss the limelight goodbye. From now on your rightful place is in the back benches.”
“Diva! How dare!”
But he had his eyes trained to the ramp, “OMGeee! Look at my lovelies! Don’t they look gorgeous! A match made in heaven! Gosh I need a tissue…” He sniffed and blew a kiss at the dashing pair.
The crowd got into the spirit and began a unified chant—“DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!”
Shan grinned and whispered something into Khanak’s ear. She in response colored prettily and nodded.
The models stepped aside cheering them as the music cued in.
The entire theater gasped as Khanak unclipped her dazzling crystal ensemble and flung it away to reveal an uneven lyrical dress in plum and pink. Shan, discarding his evening jacket took his scarf and fashioned it like a bandana around his head.
The following is a song from the Hindi movie Kisna—
Hum Hain Iss Pal Yahan,
Jaane Ho Kal Kahan Hum Miley Na Miley,
Hum Rahey Na Rahey
(We are here at this moment
Know not where we shall be the next
Though we may meet or not
Though we may live or die)
The rhythm of the song seemed to be in tandem with the beat of the heart as the pair split up and moved to the opposing ends of the stage.
Both appeared displaced in a melee, their eyes flitting around as if in search of a lost love.
Khanak stood on tip toe, her feet bare and assumed the arabesque where she stood on one leg while extending the other straight back then fluidly moved it up in the air and pointed it higher as the front of her body bent low in balance. Then beginning slow in adagio and picking up the tempo as in allegro she began doing quick pirouettes and jumps around the stage…her movements effortless almost as if she was suspended in space. Meanwhile Shan complimented her adding high leaps in the air leaving everyone enthralled.
Rahegi Sadaa Yahan,
Pyar Ki Ye Dastan
Sunengi sada jise
Yeh Zameen Aasmaan
(The story of our love
Shall remain always
Through this earth and sky)
Both of the dancers looked distressed seeming unaware of where they really were.
After a great deal of effort they spotted one other. Smiling with relief they sprang into motion. Khanak leaped high doing an aerial split. Shan caught her by the waist and lifted her straight up above his head. Holding his gaze Khanak relaxed her body and draped herself over his shoulder as he gently lowered her to the ground and they ended in a tight lover’s embrace.
The crowd roared jumping collectively to their feet. The couple on the stage seemed taken by surprise then smiling with embarrassment they split apart and took their bows.
“Calm down Tash…you look like you are going to burst an artery!” Tarun’s voice rose in concern.
“Make way! Make way!” Diva appeared as the uppity crowd jostled with each other seeking to be introduced to Khanak.
She was riding high with a near perfect ballet/contemporary routine and Shan was by her side. It felt as if she had already met most of her goals.
Therefore when her gaze fell on Natasha who looked ready to make a meal out of her, she didn’t feel particularly threatened. Instead she schooled a pleasant smile on her face and extended a gracious hand—a gesture that was bluntly ignored by her rival.
Tash jumped to Shan’s side and clung to his arm; “My poor dear. How odd you must feel in the company of strangers. Don’t you worry, your favorite Tashu is back and I promise to never leave you alone again!” She said while aiming toxic barbs at Khanak who responded with a graceful smile.
Shan priced Tash’s fingers loose, “I prefer strangers to so called friends who are just waiting for the moment when they can pull the rug from under my feet.” He smiled at Khanak, “…besides Ms. Mishra is not a stranger. Rather she has become someone infinitely more precious.” At that something intimate appeared to pass between him and Khanak causing Diva to burst into a merry giggle.
So you may think but not for long! Tash thought spitefully before she declared with a dazzling smile— “I hope everyone, old acquaintances and new are going to join me in my welcome back bash tonight!”
PS: Excuse me for the delay in posting. I’ve been caught up in a lot of things– including putting the final touches to the manuscript of my upcoming novel MILAN to writing Book 2 of INCONVENIENT RELATIONS. I hope to make the intervals shorter in the future 🙂